The challenges of early adulthood are all but universal. Many live away from their families for the first time, and many more struggle to enter the workforce. Following the 2012 census, it was reported by the United States Census Bureau that nearly 19% of the population has a disability. Despite making up nearly one fifth of the population, persons with disabilities continue to face higher rates of unemployment than the rest of the population. The willingness to work is there–just not the opportunity.
Having a disability should not be equated to having a disadvantage, yet sweeping generalizations and social stigma make it difficult for many to find fulfilling employment opportunities. After ten years of operation The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh has seen many members face new challenges as they age. To accommodate these changing needs, several programs have been introduced to help members gain volunteer experience, improve their resumes, and explore how to form meaningful relationships in an adult setting.
Within The Friendship Circle’s programming, there are several unique tracks geared to accommodate the needs of older members: Friends on the Town, I-Volunteer, and Everyone Contributes. These diverse programs allow members to participate in unique experiences, explore new interests, and develop pre-employment skills through volunteerism.
While only available to current members, the Friends on the Town program coordinates group outings for young adults of all abilities. Throughout the year, these programs consist of group dinners, outings to recreational events, and trips to sensory-friendly theatre performances. To help a diverse group of friends broaden their community involvement, The Friendship Circle and the Jewish Federation Volunteer Center collaborate to organize I-Volunteer events. These volunteer opportunities are open to anyone aged 18 to 45 and enable young adults of all abilities in the community to assist a variety of community organizations.
Everyone Contributes is a growing area of Friendship Circle programming that is engaging a growing number of young adult members. Through this volunteering track, individuals with special needs are able to assist in office work and at Friendship Circle events. The office assistants work with staff to explore their strengths in the workplace and develop career skills such as organization, data entry, and program planning. In the near future, this program hopes to expand to include more members and help pair them with apprenticeship opportunities with local businesses. If interested in becoming a community partner, contact The Friendship Circle at (412)-224-4440, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although many barriers continue to prevent persons with disabilities from fully participating in adult life, partnerships between local organizations and businesses are creating greater opportunities for young adults. The transition from the structure of the education system to the unpredictability of adulthood can be tumultuous for anyone. Regardless, the Pittsburgh community is filled with opportunities for people to give back and grow as an individual, regardless of age or ability.